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    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    How to deal with bears on tour?

    We will be riding through a couple thousand miles of bear country on our upcoming tour and I've been researching this for a couple days. How do you deal with bears on tour? What do you store your food in? What if there are no trees around to hang it in?
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

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    aspiring island dweller spinninwheels's Avatar
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    Nancy: From the info I've gathered, the most important thing to practice is the safety triangle. Eat in one area, store your food another, and sleep in the third. Most importantly, if there is a visible wind, cook in the most downwind point.

    With respect to trees, or lack thereof, there are some products that supposedly are bear proof. I can't remember the exact name, it's like bear can, bear barrel, or something like that.

    Have you asked that question on CgoaB? I'm thinking Jeff's or Terrence's journal may have a little info considering their routes.

    I think bear bangers and bear spray would be in order as well. I've only toured BC/Alberta with a small, naval air horn; but never had to use it. It always hung off my handlebar bag and I kept it with me when I was in my hammock.

    Good luck with your trip.

    Dave
    Life is either a wild adventure or nothing - Helen Keller

  3. #3
    where2pedalto.com andrewh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nancy sv View Post
    We will be riding through a couple thousand miles of bear country on our upcoming tour and I've been researching this for a couple days. How do you deal with bears on tour? What do you store your food in? What if there are no trees around to hang it in?
    G'day Nancy.

    Having done the Deadhorse to Calgary and beyond trip, I can tell you that living (camping) in bear country is an interesting experience. Joanne and I looked at the bear barrels but figured they were not big enough, and were too heavy for carrying enough food (15 days from Deadhorse to Fairbanks) for extended cycle touring.

    We had our food in the Bob trailer (only) and used to follow this routine:
    1. when not in campgrounds, we used to cook and eat in a clear area where we could see around us for a reasonable distance to avoid surprises, and then ride a few kilometres away to camp;
    2. when in campgrounds, follow the laid down rules in the campground and if possible cook away from the tent, then store the food in their lockers if provided;
    3. if no lockers were available or when not in a campground, we would remove the bob trailer from the trikes and take it a good distance away from the tent and leave it in the bush. That way, the worst that could happen was that we'd lose our food and have to get some help to get some more, or ride to where we could with empty fuel tanks.
    4. we hung our food once using the metal frame over the gate to the pipeline but other than that we always utilised the method at point 3.

    We were lucky and never had any problem, nor lost any food to bears or other critters, but you never know what will happen. For my 2c worth, there is no fool proof way, and using the best known methods that seem appropriate at the time is probably the best.

    Hope that helps.

    Regards

    Andrew & Joanne

    http://www.where2pedalto.com
    ...years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. - Mark Twain

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    Everything the first two posts said pretty much summed it up. The things I would add are that Brears view lubrication products ie chain lube and the like as dessert. If you want some great pictures spray a lot on right before bedtime and watch them lick it off your chain. ( ok, not really a good idea), avoid any campsites near salmon streams, and more and more campsites are adding food lockers, at least around here. At least worth asking about.

  5. #5
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    Store not only food, but anything that is aromatic such as soaps, shampoos, sunscreen and the like NOT in your tent. And don't put your panniers that carry this stuff in your tent either.

    If there is a mid-air pulley system available, use it. If there are bear-proof lockers, use them. If there is a neighbour's car, and the neighbour is amenable, use it (better to have the bear break into the vehicle than your occupied tent).

    If there is a tree with a branch about 20 feet above the ground, this is a good time to practice your upward throws -- start early in the evening, because there is a chance darkness will fall before you get the rope over. Writing of rope, make sure you have some. And not some of that really thin curtain sashcord that you've acquired because it's light and useful, but some reasonably heavy stuff -- because if you try to pull up several full panniers of food and aromatic material, you will find it almost impossible with thin cord. Plus you will need a reasonably heavy object (in direct proportion to the diameter of the rope you're using -- ie, the thicker the rope, the bigger the weighty object needs to be) to weight the end of the said rope and ensure you have a fighting chance of getting the rope over the limb before darkness.

    Also... wear your helmet, and make sure the loose end of the rope is attached to something, or you will be repeating this whole exercise again as the tail disappears upward and over the limb only to fall to back earth with the weighted end next to it.

    Been there, done all (and I mean ALL) that.

    Oh... and make sure the limb is (a) not dead and rotten and (b) is thick enough for the weight of the panniers. Because, we've also had a limb come down, too... as darkness fell with it.

    Try to plan your campsites at parks campgrounds where there are other people about, and particularly parks staff. Watch the bulletin boards at these campgrounds for warnings of bear activity in the area.

    Pick up the literature provided by the parks and follow it.

    You also have the additional problem, I understand, of bringing a dog with you... and that can be bad news in bear country. Basically, keep it under lock and key (well, a leash at least), especially if it has a predisposition to running off and yapping madly while you opine that the dog control lessons haven't worked.

    Don't become complacent, and in particular, watch your children (and the dog) and their behaviour in this sort of country. Impress on them that playing with bears is NOT a good idea at any time. It's a deadly, winner-take-all game and bears are sore losers... and equally, sore winners.

    Keep your distance from bear activity. Don't try to get the "good close-up" photographic shot.

    Find out when mating and cubbing seasons are because mother bears are very protective of their young -- never, ever get in between a mother and babies because you could be at death's door. Run in the other direction.

    Plus, if you ever consider riding at dawn or twilight, think wolves. They hunt in packs, and I know of an instance where a cyclist was picked up by a motorist after the driver noticed a pack of wolves tracking the rider along a main highway in the Rockies in Alberta. According to one of my close sources (sitting right next to me, in fact ) says the wolf problem is escalating in Alberta to the point that farmers want the ban on shooting them to be lifted. We've passed them in a motor vehicle at dusk as they have wandered along the side of the road. It was the first time Machka had seen wolves like that... she initially thought they were coyotes, but they were way too big.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  6. #6
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Which way are you going through Canada?

    This is the Parks Canada site which might provide you with some useful info on your trip through Canada in general. http://www.pc.gc.ca/index_e.asp

    And here is the part of the site that talks about bears:
    http://www.pc.gc.ca/docs/v-g/oursnoi...ar/index_e.asp
    http://www.pc.gc.ca/docs/pc/guide/nature/nature02_e.asp

    Depending on where you are, there are several animals which you might have to keep an eye out for ... bears (I've seen lots of these), wolves (as Rowan mentioned above), cougars (I've seen one on a ride), and elk. In general, if you keep your distance and respect the fact that this is their home, not yours, it's OK.

    You might find this interesting as well ... it's about the cougars here in Canada:
    http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/Mag...th/default.asp

  7. #7
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    We once did a bike tour, camping thing; with the wifes and non cyclists, driving behind as sag. About Crater lake the bears at night sounded worrisome. First night we camped in a tent on the ground. Second night we put our sleeping bags within the camper shell and kept the gate closed. Those bears were more worrisome than downtown America on frightnight.

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    Do bring one of those small Japanese wind chimes. The ones that are a piece of metal shaped like a frog or fish. If a bear comes by while you are in your tent, calmly ring the bell and maybe he will go away. If you are outside the tent, ring the bell, calmly, while backing away. This is what I used while kayaking the Inside Passage (solo) and if it didn't save my life, it at least caused the bears to temporarily go off a little and give me time to retreat. You are not scaring the bear, you are negotiating with him. As for the food, remember that bears have a sense of smell that is beyond our imagining. Never, like ever, have food in or near the tent. Keep yourself and your clothes from smelling of food as well. I would recommend against having anything on hand that would involve force or threat against the bear. In my opinion, that would be foolish in the highest degree.

  9. #9
    mev
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    First a notice I photographed in Joy, Alaska while cycling the Dalton Highway: http://www.mvermeulen.com/dalton/big/overview_04.jpg

    I've done what others have done, in keeping my food and bicycle parked away from where I was sleeping. Some campgrounds had lockers but one in the Yukon Territory (between Haines & Haines Junction) didn't have lockers when I visited. I briefly thought about keeping my panniers in one of the bear-proof trash cans but decided against it under risk of having them accidentally get thrown away. That evening something slashed open a pannier and spent a good amount of effort trying to get into a plastic jar of peanut butter. I suspect it was a bear but not 100% certain. Safety pins are useful to have to hold the pannier back together.

    When cycling across the US/Canadian border, I've had Canadian border agents ask me if I was bringing in "any weapons" including asking if I was bringing in bear spray. I never had bear spray with me but I sometimes got a mixed message from those border agents of "do not bring bear spray across the border" with a "you may be crazy to cycle in the Yukon without bear spray...". Personally, I don't particularly want to get close enough to bears to have to worry about bear spray.

  10. #10
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    Thanks for your thoughts everyone!! We are definitely planning to do the triangle thing - and will keep all food/smelly stuff in one Bob trailer. This oughtta be interesting!!
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

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    Senior Member ricohman's Avatar
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    As an avid camper who has lost many tents, coolers, food and clothing to bears I can say this.
    Hang you food or keep it in a locker.
    But beware, bears are very persistant and will rumage for hours until chased off. Even if you have no food.
    I watched a black bear for nearly an hour (from my Land Cruiser) in Duck Mountain Park as it tore my campsite to bits. There was no food at all in the site but that didn't seem to bother the bear.
    The SERM officer later shot this bear.

    There is no "cubbing season" as mentioned above. The cubs stay with the sow for 3 years or so.
    Last edited by ricohman; 02-18-08 at 09:17 AM.

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    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    What about bug spray? That's pretty smelly stuff, but I can't help but think it will be essential for us to use it - and that means it'll get in the tent and sleeping bags.
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

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    You WILL need bug spray up here, but I have never had a problem with it. I'd STRONGLY advise that you keep some of the hardcore very unnatural unhealthy stuff around as there will be those times ( read 100% deet) We use the avon product skin so soft the rest of the time as it seems a lot easier on the skin for continual use.

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    Senior Member john bono's Avatar
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    I was thinking about this, and I have not tried it, and it is gross, but it might work, too. Bears have a great sense of smell, and when they forage, they track like dogs, using scent to find food. So, if something smelled bad/inedible, the bear probably wouldn't touch it. What smells bad/inedible? Dog doo. You use two containers, an inner, clean container to hold the food/scented stuff, and an outside layer, like a garbage bag, that you slather the outside of with dog doo(or maybe modern science can make something that smells just like dog doo to a dog). The bear comes around, sniffs the outer bag, thinks that it is full of sh*t, and goes away.

    Yes, it is gross, but I've never heard of bears raiding outhouses.
    Ride a bike. It makes your legs stringy, and less tasty to our Kanamit friends.[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    Hmmm... interesting idea John!! I'll have to think about that one!
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  16. #16
    40 yrs bike touring
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    Some great advice above about camping with bears. It squares with my experience.

    Ursack, Bearikade and others make bear resistant bags and barrels. They have a limited capacity and only the most expensive-Bearikade- are at all light in weight but they are very effective.

    The Ursack is made of kevlar or similar and does keep small critters from spoiling your food as well. It has been my default hanging or ground food bag for years without a problem.

    One item that I have found useful in Alaska, BC and Alberta bear country while touring is ammonia in a spray bottle or bowl. I have had Alaska Brown and Grizzly bears approach my camp sniffing around my tent until they found small bowls and sponges filled with a bit of ammonia near the tent. They did not seem to like this intense smell and departed the area snorting. No guarantees just anecdotes of my experience but you might find it useful.

  17. #17
    Senior Member ricohman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by john bono View Post
    I was thinking about this, and I have not tried it, and it is gross, but it might work, too. Bears have a great sense of smell, and when they forage, they track like dogs, using scent to find food. So, if something smelled bad/inedible, the bear probably wouldn't touch it. What smells bad/inedible? Dog doo. You use two containers, an inner, clean container to hold the food/scented stuff, and an outside layer, like a garbage bag, that you slather the outside of with dog doo(or maybe modern science can make something that smells just like dog doo to a dog). The bear comes around, sniffs the outer bag, thinks that it is full of sh*t, and goes away.

    Yes, it is gross, but I've never heard of bears raiding outhouses.
    I've seen bears sniffing/pawing and eating dog crap. In fact many of the northern campgrounds warn dog owners of this pronlem.
    You need something like OC spray to get rid of a bear.

  18. #18
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    I was reading about the Ursack the other day - but I'm thinking we would need 3 or 4 of them to fit all the food we'll need to the four of us! Are they worth it?
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

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    I have had more than my fair share of bear encounters when bike touring across Canada. I always made dinner on the way to my campsite for the night. I mostly wild camped and had fires at night.

    Remember that bears also like toothpaste.

    If you have a pocket knife don't bring that in the tent with you if you used to to prep food, unless you clean it first.

    Bears are also attracted to sweet scents like flowery body wash and soaps. So don't keep that with you.

    Keep a hand flare with you in your tent, in case a bear gets curious.

    Keep a fox 40 whistle with you and an air horn. I sometimes worry about pepper spray, pissing an angry bear off that is not too happy with you does not seem like a good idea.

    Make sure guy lines do not make it easy for a bear to get caught up and drag you and your tent into the woods.

    An easy way to hang heavy bags high up in trees is to use #550 paracord and attached to a small pulley and throw it over a high branch that is no where near your camp site. Lower the pulley to the ground and run a rope through it with your gear attached and hoist it into the tree.
    Black bears can climb trees, so make sure that you hang your gear far enough out on the branch that they can't reach it.

    Some people have said bears can't run downhill, they can and in most cases it will be faster than you could bike down it.

    Learn what bear sign is.

    Bears a curious and opportunists and probably want nothing to do with you. That being said bears do not tend to know much about statistics.

    The biggest threat to you is not bears, it is biting insects like mosquitoes and deer tics that carry lyme disease.

    Be noisy when you get into camp, chances are if the bear knows you are there it will do its best to avoid you.

    Smells are stronger when it is raining, and my encounters where a bear has come into my camp have been when it was raining. The rain also makes it harder for animals to hear you, so it is easier to surprise bears when it is raining.

    If there is no way to hang your food then chances are that the rodents will make a meal out of your food if it is not secure. That is a guarantee.

    Most of all be careful and don't let bear paranoia ruin your trip, because it will be an awesome experience.

  20. #20
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ricohman View Post
    There is no "cubbing season" as mentioned above. The cubs stay with the sow for 3 years or so.

    The point is ... if you see a cub, walk away from the cub, never walk toward the cub. Living next to the mountains here, I hear the stories ... some tourist sees the cub and thinks, "Oh, how cute" and rushes over to take a picture of or with the little teddy bear ................. and next thing they know, mamma bear is coming to get them.

  21. #21
    Senior Member ricohman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    The point is ... if you see a cub, walk away from the cub, never walk toward the cub. Living next to the mountains here, I hear the stories ... some tourist sees the cub and thinks, "Oh, how cute" and rushes over to take a picture of or with the little teddy bear ................. and next thing they know, mamma bear is coming to get them.
    Yup. Mama bear wants nobody near her cubs. Unfortunately, people often stumble upon the cubs first but making some noise can help out as the cubs can be shy of noise.

  22. #22
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    With two kids, making noise shouldn't be a problem. The kids will in heaven - for the first time ever we'll be encouraging them to make tons of noise!!
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  23. #23
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nancy sv View Post
    With two kids, making noise shouldn't be a problem. The kids will in heaven - for the first time ever we'll be encouraging them to make tons of noise!!
    Just make sure you keep your kids and dog within sight at all times.

  24. #24
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    Will do - for sure!!
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  25. #25
    Fred E Fenders fthomas's Avatar
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    Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray - 290 Gram

    Carry and do not be afraid to use the Bear Deterrent Spray. I was reading an article recently and where there were dangerous human / bear encounters and the spray was used there were no injuries. All of the above advice is great.

    Make lots of noise, put bells on your bikes and persons. REI has Bear Bells
    F Thomas

    "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving."
    Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

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